Let’s get honest here.
Do you ever look at the life of others and wish you had their life?
Or see their posts on social media, and wish your life could be as picture-perfect and problem-free?
Do you ever sit in your seat at church on Sunday and wish you were as put together as the worship team or the pastor and his wife?
I’ve fallen under the temptation of comparison many times.
Sometimes I have just wanted to be free of my particular struggles.
Yet I firmly believe that over the course of our lifetime, God will use some of our greatest areas of struggle to be our greatest area of ministry for Him.
But sometimes what we see in the life and ministry of others is “the afterlife” … the part of their life that comes after their greatest area of struggle or hardship. The fruit that comes after “they’ve paid their dues,” so to speak.
Sometimes what we see is the “in-between stages”…the part of their life where they can minister because they are in-between trials.
And if I can be so bold, sometimes what we see is the “cleaned up version”…the part that they let the world see although they continue to fight a battle and sludge through a trial that no one else knows about.
The Lord asked me to write a book about depression not just because I have worked for over 25 years in the mental health field, but because I have personally battled through it in the past. When people see me now and comment on the joy they see in me, until they get to know me, they have no idea that depression was once one of my greatest struggles.
I remember a couple of different well-known speakers who have been criticized in the press and in the media for their wealth and their possessions. Yet no one mentioned their early ministry years when they didn’t know when the next paycheck would come in, or how they would feed their families…the years of abuse they endured or the estrangement from family rarely gets mentioned…no one spoke of the time they were stalked and feared for their life. And I daresay, even if they did, no one would volunteer for those experiences in order to appreciate the blessings these speakers now enjoy.
Recently, a follower of my work commented publicly how they wish they could have my life. I’m not exactly sure what part of “my life” they wanted, although I will be the first to admit, I am incredibly blessed. But I have also endured my share of hardship and pain, and I have also worked hard, “paid my dues,” and continue to work hard.
It made me think, however. Because recently, I asked a friend to pray over a situation for me. Yet she seemed surprised. Her response? “But you’d never know. Your posts on social media are always so positive!”
We only ever get a small glimpse of what is going on in the lives of others. Even those we know the most intimately. Unless we walk in their shoes, we never really know all they deal with or have dealt with to get where they are today.
I personally believe that we should do as the Bible encourages us to do in Philippians 4:8. “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” And on social media, especially, I view my role as to offer encouragement and hope not complain or mope about the daily woes.
But perhaps at times it does each other a disservice to not give a glimpse into our daily reality. It’s easy to see the travel photos, the family birthday photos, and the tweeted milestones, and have a very skewed image of someone’s day in and day out reality. After the follower said they wished they could have my life, I thought about my day and jotted down a very honest appraisal of what the day was like:
I drove a friend to the airport,
got to work at 5am,
wrote 2 patient reports,
saw eight patients,
wrote up 2 insurance pre-authorizations,
handled one attorney consultation call,
returned 27 emails,
realized I was famished because breakfast was when most people are still digesting last night’s dinner,
ran home to fix something,
broke a shoe,
had to clean up after a sick dog,
helped my son pack for a trip with his dad,
had to figure out dinner –something that didn’t require going back out in 110 degree heat to grocery store, THEN and only then would I start working on several other patient reports,
write a blog post due the next day,
and if there was any time left over before falling into bed,
perhaps read a chapter of a new book that came in the mail that day.
So not very glamorous is it? But blessed it is.
Throughout the day I battled against worries and fears, insecurities and longings:
How do I deliver this feedback so my patient can best receive it?
When did I put on these 20 pounds? And how will I get it off?
Will they notice the wrinkles in my blouse?
I can’t believe I forgot to stop at the grocery store two days in a row.
What kind of mother am I for considering cereal for dinner?
What if I can’t think of anything to write that touches their heart?
Just taking an honest look at a typical day for me that many don’t ever see helped me realize that those I admire from afar have stress, worries, fears, and unpredictable moments too. They have baskets of laundry to wash and fold, permission slips that go missing, and checkbooks that need balancing.
The temptation of comparison never serves me well. The enemy always offers it up with a bow on top, but like everything else he does, it’s a lie sent to tear me down. I have no need to look right or left, to other people’s lives and accomplishments, only up to my Father in heaven for His direction.
“Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil” (Proverbs 4:27).
I don’t want anyone else’s life. What I desire most is to be smack dab in the middle of God’s plan for me. His plans for me are perfectly designed only for me, with my personality, my gifts and my talents, for such a time as this.
“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord. ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans for a future and a hope.’” (Jeremiah 29:11).
Whose life have you been comparing yours to?
(If you have a question you’d like Dr. B to answer, contact her here now. Your name and identity will be kept confidential.)
A short brief about Hope Prevails.
Insights from a Doctor’s Personal Journey through Depression
Dr. Michelle Bengtson
Speaking from personal and professional experience, a neuropsychologist unpacks what depression is, shows how it affects us spiritually, and offers hope for living the abundant life.
Neuropsychologist Offers Hope to Those Struggling with Depression
-By 2020, depression will be our greatest epidemic worldwide
- An estimated 350 million people worldwide suffer from some form of depression
- As with the bestselling My Stroke of Insight, the author experienced the same condition she treats
- Helpful features include personal stories, biblical truths, prayers, and music recommendations
In Hope Prevails, Dr. Bengtson writes with deep compassion and empathy, blending her extensive training and faith, to offer readers a hope that is grounded in God’s love and grace. She helps readers understand what depression is, how it affects them spiritually, and what, by God’s grace, it cannot do. The result is a treatment plan that addresses the whole person—not just chemical imbalances in the brain.
For those who struggle with depression and those that want to help them, Hope Prevails offers real hope for the future.
Hope Prevails is available now wherever books are sold. To find out more, see: http://drmichellebengtson.com/hope-prevails-book/.